About Our Founders

In the summer of 2007, sixteen women of various tribes in Wisconsin first met to discuss how they could start to raise breast health awareness among Native American women in the Southeastern, Wisconsin.  The idea was first shared by Teresa Seidel. Teresa spoke of the Pink Shawl Project that began in Michigan in 2003 by Lorraine “Punkin” Shananaquet.

The idea of starting a Pink Shawl Project in Wisconsin was a hit with the women, especially since four of the women present were breast cancer survivors and had served on the Indian Summer board.  Indian Summer is one of the largest festivals that are held every year on the lake at the Summerfest grounds.  After much discussion a decision was made to make their first debut at the Indian Summer Pow-wow in September, three months away.

Over the next few months meetings were held with discussions, decisions and lot of hard work by all.  We educated ourselves about breast cancer facts, only to learn that Native American women have the lowest 5 year survival rate. With the things we learned, it only made us more determined to make our dream happen.  Thirty-five women were busy sewing and designing shawls to honor family and friends that were survivors and those that passed.  The logo we all agreed on was “Dream the Cure”.  It was a theme that we all wanted to strive for when fighting cancer and hoped that our message of promoting breast health would become a reality.

In September when the Indian Summer Festival Pow-wow came, we had sixty women present at the Grand Entry to raise awareness about breast cancer among Native American women.  The emcee introduced the Pink Shawl Ladies and reminded the audience of breast health and wellness.  We had an informational table and women stepped up to volunteer and share the message of the importance of mammograms and clinical breast exams.

At the Pow-wow we presented our first honorary Pink Shawl to local television personality Melody Wilson and founder of ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis).   It was that year that Melody publicly announced her cancer reoccurrence.  During the Pow-wow presentation she addressed the audience to share her message of the importance of breast cancer awareness and early detection.  Melody recognized the need in our community for support and education.  With her assistance we formed collaboration with the staff of ABCD and designed a Native American mentor training program and coordinating printed collateral.  Since then Melody lost her battle with cancer, but we continue or work with ABCD and cherish this relationship with her that helped solidify our organization.

The Founding women that started the Pink Shawl Ladies were a special group of ladies.  Each person shared their talents and caring personalities along with dedication to the important cause of increasing the life of Native American women through effective education about breast health.  The amazing women that founded the Pink Shawls are: Lisa Anderson, Carol Cameron, Julie Darrough, Judy Dordel, Janelle Klumb, Tammy Pytarski, Terrie Seidel and Deb Ushakow.  A number of the women on the original board continue to serve on the board and volunteer their time, talents and expertise.

The Pink Shawl Ladies are dedicated to continue out-reach to the community by providing breast health education, and to encourage regular mammography and clinical breast exams.  We are also committed to help connect women with the services needed for screening and support.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative became a non-profit corporation.  The board consists of twelve devoted ladies and one very hard working man.  We are grateful for those folks that have supported us from the start:  ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis), St. Francis Su Salud Program, the Indian Summer Board, Dr. Michelle McClellan and Mark Denning.

We continue to grow the organization and develop new community collaboration with the ACS (American Cancer Society), Columbia St. Mary’s – Mobile Mammogram Staff, Susan G. Komen’s Conversations for the Cure, Wisconsin Well Woman Program, Forest County Potawatomi, Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation.